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I was recently honored with an invitation to attend an absolutely delightful “media preview day” on behalf of this little blog, BlogJoieDeVivre.com!  Yes, I’ve attended many events such as this before, but they were always on behalf of other media outlets I’ve written for:  in college for The Daily Cougar, on the ‘other side’ as a PR rep at Weber Shandwick, and over the past year for InFluential Magazine.  This, however, was my first time to attend a media event on behalf of my very own web site!  Guess I’m a legit “media” outlet now, y’all — lol!Central Market's Passport Italy event

But seriously, it’s so wonderful and gratifying to not only have people actually READ this outlet for my writing, but to now get attention from P.R. agencies seeking my reviews & coverage of their products, ideas, and events.  I’m quickly learning one has to draw a hard line and keep true to yourself & your passions in order to maintain authenticity.  I reply “thanks, but no thanks” to PR pitches literally every day but luckily, a few story opportunities come along that are right in line with the interests of myself & my readers.  As such, Central Market‘s media preview day for Passport Italy was right up my alley!  Complete with samples, sips, an Italian opera singer, and even a live human statue (he was so good — a complete surprise!) the event was very well done.  How could you not enjoy yourself diving into this glorious spread?Italian cured meats & cheeses at Central Market's Passport Italy

Throughout my travels, I’ve truly never tasted better food than while dining in Italy.  France was a close second, but I feel their claim to fame lies more in the gourmet preparation & presentation of cuisine.  Every country has signature fare to boast about, for that matter, but there is something about Italian food that takes the cake.  From the pasta, pizza, wine & cheese, I would love to eat my way through Italy Eat, Pray, Love-style.  This is why I was intrigued to hear about Central Market’s Passport Italy concept:  Starting tomorrow through May 13th, your local (if you live near one of their Texas locations) Central Market will showcase traditional Italian foods & ingredients, along with hundreds of new imported items such as gelatos, breads, pastas, cured meats, wines, cheeses, and olive oils.  It’s a taste of Italy without ever leaving Texas!  And everything’s bigger in Texas, even the Parmigiano-Reggiano presentations:Parmigiano-Reggiano display for Passport Italy at Central Market

Did you notice they’re serving honey with the cheese?  I always forget about this complementary combination!  It wasn’t just any ol’ honey, mind you — it was Italian TRUFFLE honey!  Anything with truffle is guaranteed to taste good, right?  They paired various types of honey with all the different cheeses, actually, truffle (seen below) and even lavender honey.  –What a unique ingredient to serve alongside the cheese tray at your next gathering!Truffle honey at Central Market's Passport Italy

Another unique product showcased during the event was an Italian craft brew called Birra del Borgo “Perle ai Porci” Oyster Stout.  I’ve never had an oyster stout before and was surprised to learn they’re made by actually adding oysters into the mix during the brewing process.  It was described as tasting like a saltwater tootsie roll.  Another cool aspect of the standout flavor born from all that oceanic originality is that the drink actually pairs best not with seafood, but with pork dishes.  I could totally see it working marvelously with a honey-baked ham, for example.Birra del Borgo Perle ai Porci Oyster Stout from Central Market

Check out these fun products over the next couple weeks during Passport Italy — a larger-than-life two-week immersion in the food, wine, and culture of the country.  Top-flight culinary superstars including chefs, vinters, and cheese makers will travel to Texas to share their knowledge of Italian culture and cuisine.  Their prized products and presentations will imbue your regular grocery shopping scene with authentic Italian flavors at all Central Market stores across Texas.  Enjoy all that fresh-made pasta and hand-stretched mozzarella, friends — Ciao Bella!